Getting past the first interview is tough. Today, hiring managers tend to interview a half dozen people, choosing the best 2 or 3 for the next round. Making a good impression is a big part of what gets you to the second interview. It's a fine balance of presenting your personality, aptitude, and experience in a way that makes you seem like a good fit for the team. Science shows a big success factor when doing this lies in how you frame your view of others.
Behavioral Questions Reveal Your Mentality Towards Others
One of the reasons hiring managers love behavioral questions is how they let them see if you're a positive or negative person. How you describe working with difficult people says a lot about your mentality on-the-job. Studies show to be more likable, we need to talk about people in a positive fashion. So, what do you say when an employer asks the behavioral question, "Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult person?"
Be Objective & Take Some Ownership
The secret to answering this question lies in your ability to take the emotion out of what happened. At Work It Daily, we call it the Experience + Learn = Grow Model. First, you objectively state what happened that resulted in the difficult situation with the person. Next, you reflect and take ownership of what you could have done differently to avoid the conflict. Finally, you describe how you turned the situation around and what you will now do in the future to avoid it happening again. I might look something like this:
"I once had to work with someone who wasn't giving me the information I needed to do my job in a timely fashion. For a while, I thought he was doing it purposely to make me look bad. I was secretly frustrated. Finally, I sat down with him one day to inquire why he was being so difficult with me. I was shocked to learn that he was so worried about giving me the wrong information, he was triple checking his work, causing the delay. We had a great talk and I explained I'd rather he give me the information on time. So, we worked together to build a system of checks he could quickly do to be confident the information was correct. This experience taught me to never assume anything about a coworker until I talk to them. Communication is the key to getting what you need."
See how this model allows you to be a positive person, even in a negative situation?
Of Course, This Doesn't Work If You're Actually Negative
While you might be able to nail this question in an interview next time, it won't solve your problem if you truly are negative at your core. Job seekers who get jobs the fastest are the ones that take the Experience + Learn = Grow Model and work through good answers for all types of behavioral questions. Consistent positivity is necessary for this to work. In fact, that's why hiring managers use behavioral questions - they know you can't game the system. If you really are negative, it will eventually show in your answers.
PS - The More Experience You Have, The Harder It Is To Convey The Right Message
My advice to those that can't seem to get past the first interview is to seek some help to discover if what you're saying is turning off employers. Sometimes, it's a lack of positivity. Other times, it's a lack of humility. Knowing how to present yourself in a balanced manner is important at every age. Just because you have years of experience doesn't mean you know what to say in an interview. I've seen lots of seasoned professionals blowing interviews because they didn't realize they were coming across wrong. Especially, if the person interviewing them was younger than themselves. Don't mistake experience for wisdom. You could sound like a negative know-it-all and not even realize it. Conveying wisdom in a positive and humble manner is what gets you to the next interview.